Opponents to the Basin Water and Sewer District’s plans to install water meters will submit a plan of their own in writing.

Assisted by Eve Lundberg Stratton, who spent 16 years serving as a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court, the group plans to ask for the leaks to be fixed, the Quartz Avenue pump put back online, or investigate using ultraviolet light as a source of disinfection instead of chemicals, and to look for grants to pay for the improvements. 

“You want it short, sweet,” advised Lundberg Stratton, wife of Jack Lundberg, the man leading the group of residents opposing the District’s plans. 

Lundberg Stratton also advised the group to thank Board Chairperson MJ Williams for attending the opponents’ Aug. 20 meeting, which was held at the Basin Community Hall. She was the only Board member present. 

The Basin Water and Sewer District Board is looking to borrow $196,000 to put the Quartz Avenue pump house back online and install water meters. The water meters will not only assist with locating leaks, they will provide a necessary tool for the future if the District needs to obtain more funding for more expensive repairs, such as the system’s main, which is nearing the end of its lifespan, according to the Board. Many funding sources require the use of water meters, according to the Board. 

The Board had approved a rate change in April, which took effect June 1, to pay for the improvements. After that April meeting, some residents began speaking out against the plan — focusing particularly on the water meters and the loan — which has to be repaid over a period of 20 years with interest — a point of the contention for the opponents. 

Opponents want the leaks fixed before the water meters are installed — and have suggested using a commercial vendor to do the work. 

One problem with the leaks, according to the Board, is that it is causing excessive water use in the community. The leaks stem from old and deteriorating curb stops, the device used to turn water on and off at a property. However, many types of leak finding equipment will not work with the type of pipes in the Basin system, asbestos concrete (AC) pipe, according to District Operator and Clerk Nissa Manley. 

Some residents referred to the Board’s plan as a “double operation,” meaning the ground would be disturbed to put in the water meters, and once the leaks were found, the ground would be disturbed again — possibly causing more problems. Another concern among residents were leaks on their property — an expense they would be responsible for. 

At least a third of this community is at or below the poverty line, said Lundberg.

The opponents are also concerned that the Basin water system does not have a back-up generator, although Manley said it is not required by the state because the system has an adequate water supply as a backup. 

Lundberg advised the group that their effort will take some time. 

“We’re fighting city hall,” he said. 

A recall petition submitted by Lundberg was rejected by Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Bonnie Ramey for several reasons, including the reasons for recall, as defined in the Montana Annotated Code 2-16-603. The code states a public official can be recalled for “Physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense enumerated in Title 45 are the only grounds for recall. A person may not be recalled for performing a mandatory duty of the office that the person holds or for not performing any act that, if performed, would subject the person to prosecution for official misconduct.”

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